What's Next for Cuba?
"If any Gorbachev raises his head around here," snarled Castro as recently as 2002, "we'll promptly chop it off!"
Thus spoke Raul — not Fidel— Castro in 2002. Yet this is the man who Democrats, the mainstream media (and the scholarly "Cuba Experts" they're all trotting out this week) assure us will engineer a Cuba regime "opening" based on the "Chinese mode." Needless to say, this Cuba "opening" will demand a reciprocal prompt U.S. "opening" towards it.
Not only would such an opening condemn Cubans to further tyranny, it would loot the U.S. taxpayer.
The announcement this week of Fidel Castro's retirement was a mere formality. You'll recall the identical announcement July of 2006. In fact, many Cuba watchers will tell you that his little brother, Raul, as head of Cuba's armed forces, has been mostly running Cuba, the nuts and bolts of the thing, for decades, and more singlehandedly for the past five years.
In 2003, Fidel Castro probably had a stroke. Midway through that year he was noticed babbling incoherently (more than usual that is) during speeches, and pausing repeatedly through them as his mind seemed to grope fruitlessly. Close Cuba watchers noticed that he soon started reading his speeches, ponderously and word for word, something utterly unthinkable during his entire illustrious career of speechmaking.
In fact, YouTube has a video of a Castro monologue from just last year where (if you understand Spanish, and between guffaws) you'll be convinced, beyond the slightest doubt, that the man has gone totally gaga (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbzciUAiOxQ). Among the highlights: "C squared equals the speed of light," and "The radioactivity of Cobalt lasts half a billion years."
For Cuba, with a (very) heavy heart I'll borrow a line from The Talking Heads: "Same as it Ever Was."
Cuba is a military dictatorship in the most genuine sense of the term. Hence, you never hear it called such in the mainstream media. Raul Castro and his military cronies have been running Cuba for years already, and doing quite well in the process. Of the 19 members of Cuba's politburo, nine are military men. Nothing of this sort existed in the Soviet Politburo or in any of Eastern Europe's.
Over five times as many tourists visited Cuba last year, as visited in 1957 when Cuba was labelled a "tourist playground." Every dollar, euro, whatever, spent by these tourists lands in the pocket of the only outfit in Cuba with guns — and with the strongest incentive to maintain the status-quo.
Why would Cuba's military robber barons voluntarily upset their own apple carts? None of those "Cuba experts" provide a clue.
The constant scribbling and gabbling about the "U.S embargo of Cuba" or "blockade" as dubbed by the most rabid Castrophiles, omits the fact that the U.S is currently Cuba's biggest food supplier and fourth biggest trade partner. A few months back, trade delegations from 27 of our 50 states attended a trade fair in Cuba and signed business deals with Cuba's Stalinist regime. In 2007, the U.S sold almost half a billion dollars worth of goods to Cuba — for cash.
That last point is the rub with the Castro regime and with its agents in the U.S. and accounts for much of the recent hoopla about an "opening" to Cuba.
The current U.S "embargo" of Cuba simply amounts to this: No U.S. export-import bank financing of any deal with the current rulers of Cuba. In other words: no taxpayer bailout for politically-connected millionaires entering into business deals with known deadbeats and thieves (and mass-murderering Stalinists.)
Raul Castro, despite all you're reading in the mainstream media, is not the one to upset the Cuban apple cart. By all accounts Raul Castro was a committed communist well before Fidel. Unlike Fidel, Raul actually joined the youth wing of Cuba's Communist Party. He did this in 1953 and traveled with his ideological cohorts to a Communist festival in Vienna that same year. From here he traveled behind the Iron Curtain and met with Soviet officials.
By 1957 Khrushchev had already assigned him a personal KGB handler named Nikolai Leonov.
Fidel Castro officially declared Cuba "Socialist" only in April of 1961 and himself a "Marxist-Leninist," only in October of 1961. Yet a mini-Communist state had existed in Cuba as early as 1958. This was Raul Castro's area of command during the anti-Batista rebellion in Cuba's Sierra Cristal mountains.
Many Americans of Cuban heritage vividly recall the Castro brothers' good- cop/bad-cop routine of 1959-60. Fidel was good cop. His brother, Raul, the bad- cop. "Nothing had better happen to me," Fidel would warn from his ubiquitous pulpit, hinting that his sinister brother was poised in the wings. In August of 1960 Time magazine crowned Raul Castro "the fist" of the Cuban Revolution. (Fidel was "the heart" and Che Guevara "the brains.")
But let’s get a perspective from someone who actually knew and often interacted with Raul Castro. Rumanian General Ion Pacepa was the Soviet bloc's highest ranking intelligence defector. He knew Raul Castro well for over two decades. "As head of one of Communism's most criminal institutions, Raúl has been the butcher. He has been instrumental in the killing and terrorizing of thousands of Cubans."
Note that Pacepa regards Castro's political police as "one of Communism’s most criminal institutions." Coming from a man who learned the ropes of his profession from Stalin's henchmen and who served as Nikolai Ceaucescu's chief spy, this is saying something. "I saw nothing in him suggesting he might ever want to democratize Cuba, "continues Pacepa.
Nowadays Raul and his crony generals are all in their mid-seventies and beyond. These men lived into their young adulthood under a robustly capitalist Cuba, where Cuban laborers earned the 8th highest wages on earth, where Cuba had a higher per-captia income than Austria and Japan, a larger middle class then Switzerland, and where Cuba was swamped with European immigrants.
Under these circumstances, Cuba's current robber barons (and their families, in general) had achieved nothing. Honesty, hard work, property rights and the rule of law repel them. To think they'd voluntarily revert to a system that rewards such traits and institutions is ludicrous. I repeat: under it they failed miserably.